A short hike with a long view
Coon Mountain is a beloved hiking destination in the town of Westport, in the Champlain Valley. A steep but moderate .7-mile hike to the summit offers panoramic views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains. A gentler .9-mile loop, the Hidden Valley Trail, meanders through maturing mixed forest and crosses a small brook.
Coon Mountain's south-facing slopes and rich soils provide conditions for trees usually found farther south, such as red and white oak and shagbark hickory. The trail also winds through hemlock stands, a craggy ravine and rocky outcrops.
Acquired through a land swap
Coon Mountain Preserve was made possible via an innovative land swap in 1991. A generous landowner donated 275 acres of forestland in the Town of Chesterfield to the Adirondack Land Trust. The Land Trust then exchanged that tract for 246 acres on Coon Mountain—land that is ecologically rich but marginal from a forest-products perspective. Over the years the preserve has been expanded to 378 acres.
Connectivity: the safety net of nature
The preserve is one of several stepping stones of forest connecting Lake Champlain to the Adirondack interior. As big as the Adirondack Park is, it needs strong ecologial connections to adjacent landscapes and between small habitats witin the park so animals can move in search of food, mates and climate refuge.
The mountain is believed to be named for early settler William Coon. Research into the source of the name continues.
If You Go
Visitors to Coon Mountain: please follow these guidelines regarding COVID-19:
- If there are more than 12 cars at the trailhead, please find a different location to walk or come back at another time.
- Keep a safe distance of at least six feet between hikers and carefully step off trail to allow others to pass.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Follow current guidelines issued by the CDC, NYSDOH and your municipality.
Watch a Wildflower Hike Video by Jess Grant
The Summit Trail is .7-mile long with an ascent of 500 feet. It is steep and rocky in places and is maintained for hiking only. The Hidden Valley Trail, which branches off from the Summit Trail and later rejoins it, provides a less-steep alternative. To avoid getting lost or wandering onto adjoining private lands, we request that you stay on marked trail. Please remember: leave only footprints, take only pictures.
A few steps in from the trailhead, young successional woods are evidence of past forest management. Skid roads used for hauling logs out of the forest are still visible.
The hiking trail soon leaves the woods road, traverses a stand of hemlock and enters a forest of beech, maple and oak. American beech, sugar maple and yellow birch are climax species of the northern hardwood forest. If you look closely at the old trees you may see barbed wire grown into the trunk, a sign that the property was once used for pasture. While walking through a large section of beech, look for bear claw marks on the smooth gray bark. Beechnuts are a mast crop for bears and other wildlife.
At the base of the ravine you may notice a subtle change. In the richer, moister soils here we find different plants, such as blue cohosh, Dutchman's breeches, and — watch out — stinging nettles. The wildflowers are abundant in spring before tree leaves shade the forest floor. On this south-facing slope we find white ash with its compound leaves, each with seven leaflets, and basswood with its large, heart-shaped leaves.
On the climb up through the ravine please stay on the rocks to limit soil erosion. As you continue climbing, keep an eye out for porcupines that sometimes den in the rock crevices.
As you leave the top of the ravine, the trail takes you through pockets where vernal pools form in the spring, essential breeding grounds for frogs and salamanders.
Near the top, the trail winds around the summit, providing views of the Champlain Valley and its patchwork of farm and forest. The trail ends on a rocky summit with vistas of Vermont, Lake Champlain and the Adirondack High Peaks. The summit is also a good place to view migrating raptors as they fly through the Champlain Valley in spring and early fall.